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PH will emerge stronger from the pandemic thanks to the shepherds in the house.

The Philippines’ House of Representatives is in charge of formulating policies to help the country recover from the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.

The legislative work of the House, according to Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, has been critical to the country’s pandemic response, given that the success of the response is dependent on government policy choices.

According to Velasco, the lower chamber assured the passage of critical pieces of legislation that would enable the country to navigate through the pandemic and emerge stronger.

“At the start of the epidemic in 2020, we struggled to cope.” As a nation, we began to rise and rebuild in 2021. While the legislative mill was running, we adopted reforms, amended plans, and established initiatives to protect everyone’s health and safety. He stated, “We refused to be defined by adversity and loss.”

The prompt enactment of the PHP5.024-trillion budget for 2022, according to Velasco, will be Congress’ “single greatest opportunity” to determine the country’s goals for the coming year while the pandemic continues.

“As we embark on the path to recovery in 2022, this budget provides hope, opportunity, and economic stability for our kababayans,” Velasco added.

Building Resilience during the Pandemic, Sustaining the Momentum Toward Recovery and Continuing the Legacy of Infrastructure Development are the three key pillars that guide the 2022 budget.

“The GAA (General Appropriations Act) for 2022 includes a number of expenditure initiatives that will assist us to continue our fight against Covid-19. It funds health-care worker benefits and compensation, as well as the purchase of coronavirus booster shots, emergency recruiting of medical front-line staff, and other measures geared at combating the pandemic’s consequences,” he said.

The budget for next year is PHP4.506 trillion, up 11.5 percent from this year.

Another approved law extends the availability of the national budget for 2021 until December of the following year, allowing agencies to fully utilize the allocations to implement government programs and projects and ensure that the intended beneficiaries of these essential services receive them.

The 2021 national budget, according to House Appropriations Committee Chair Eric Go Yap, will improve the country’s response to the epidemic while also boosting economic recovery.

“More than our priorities for responsive and dynamic governance, the focus of our resources shall also be directed to the most urgent priority – to reset our momentum and action, rebound from the devastating effects of the pandemic on health and the economy, and fully recover from current and continuing impacts of the crisis,” Yap explained.

Both the 2021 and 2022 national budgets, according to Velasco, are the government’s most essential policy instruments as the country continues to “chart a route to recovery from the Covid-19 problem next year.”

With the enactment of the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, which establishes a vaccine indemnity fund and expedites the acquisition of Covid-19 vaccines, the 18th Congress has done its part in facilitating the speedy and efficient distribution of life-saving vaccines, he said.

The Department of Health and the National Task Force Against Covid-19 are charged with overseeing the negotiated procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, as well as the materials and services required for their storage, transportation, and distribution.

It also gives local government units (LGUs) the authority to purchase Covid-19 vaccinations, as well as other products and services.

Aside from the budget for the coming year, the House worked on critical measures to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the current public health crisis and intensify the battle against the pandemic.

The House approved 133 Republic Acts, 930 proposals on third reading, and 266 resolutions, according to recent legislative data.

“So far, this is our legislative harvest for 2021,” Velasco remarked.

This includes the third reading ratification of the Bayanihan to Arise as One bill (Bayanihan 3), which proposes a PHP401 billion stimulus plan to help Filipinos cope with the Covid-19 outbreak.

Each Filipino will receive two rounds of financial assistance totaling PHP1,000.

A total of PHP216 billion will be allocated to the cash subsidy scheme.

Additionally, pandemic-affected households will be eligible for a one-time financial subsidy of PHP5,000 to PHP10,000, which will be administered by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

On final reading, the chamber also approved two bills that seek to establish a virology research institute and a disease control center, both of which President Rodrigo Duterte listed as key initiatives in his final State-of-the-Nation Address.

Other House-approved bills that would aid the country in its fight against Covid-19 include a bill exempting critical medical supplies, such as medical oxygen, from all taxes during public health emergencies; a bill defining the tax rates for proprietary schools so that they can take advantage of the 10-percent preferential rate on taxable income; and a bill establishing the country’s electronic health or eHealth system, among others.

OCTA predictions, as well as inquiries regarding the procurement of Covid-19 supply

Aside from keeping the legislative machinery operating, the House also performed its oversight duties, focusing on the executive branch’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability’s investigation into the procurement of allegedly expensive Covid-19 supply is one of the most significant.

During its hearings, the committee ruled out the problem of overpricing, as Commission on Audit chairman Michael Aguinaldo earlier emphasized that there was no overpricing incident and that the flagging in its report was due to inventory management through the transfer of cash.

The report’s findings, according to Aguinaldo, were focused on the Procurement Service Department of Budget Management’s (PS-DBM) inventory management and did not address the alleged overpricing of medical goods.

The COA has issued a warning to the DOH for transferring PHP42.4 billion to PS-DBM for the purchase of the Covid-19 supply.

At the start of the Covid-19 outbreak last year, the PS-DBM awarded Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corporation contracts totaling PHP8.68 billion for the purchase of costly personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing kits.

According to Aguinaldo, the emergency procurement process complies with existing rules such as Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, GPPB issuances, and other provisions of RA 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal As One-Act.

“Under Bayanihan 1, the President was given the authority to get an exemption from [RA] 9184 and associated laws as quickly as possible. “However, the DBM and, I’m presuming, the Office of the President agreed to implement the emergency procurement rules, with probably minor revisions, as represented in the GPPB circular 01-2020,” Aguinaldo added.

A congressional examination into the qualifications, research methodology, partnerships, and composition of OCTA Research, an independent research group tracking the pandemic in the country, was also done by the same committee.

With the research group’s increased media attention, House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability Chair Michael Aglipay said the statements of OCTA can give the Filipino people either “hope or terror.”

“With immense power comes enormous responsibility,” says the narrator. Expert and scientific research analysis must be used with greater caution and judiciousness. He stated, “Our approaches must be successful and accurate.”

According to Aglipay, the interpretation must be based on accurate data rather than exaggerations intended to cause alarm and anxiety.

He claimed that the hearing was held to demand accountability and truthfulness, not to “suppress or abridge the right to freedom of speech.”

“In order to combat the lethal virus, private research institutions and government organizations must work together and act in concert.” “Let the science and numbers speak for themselves, rather than making public judgments that are subjective in nature,” he remarked.

In 2022, the House will be steadfast and devoted.

For the coming year, Velasco pledged that the House of Representatives will continue to enact critical legislation to aid the country’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Rest assured, we in the House of Representatives will stay consistent and committed to implementing critical pieces of legislation that will assist the country in navigating through and emerging stronger from this pandemic,” Velasco stated.

Similarly, the House speaker urged his colleagues to be consistent and devoted in 2022, which he called “a critical year for our country.”

“Let us build on our achievements and look forward to 2022 with defiant optimism.” “Let us all unite in hoping, rising, and rejoicing,” Velasco urged.

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